The dog woke me with his barking just after dawn. There was someone at the door. It turned out to be a young man, bearded and wearing a dishdasha, his right hand resting lightly on his khanja and his left proffering an envelope and some flowers. I scanned his face but this time it was not my son.
From His Highness Sultan Qaboos, the young man said, so I asked him in.
I recognised the flowers. They are the intensely red desert irises that grow in the wadis near Nizwa in the rainy season. If you have ever spent time in the wadis near Nizwa in the rainy season you will know with what feelings of pleasurable nostalgia I took them and placed them in a suitable vase – glass, with the words ‘A Souvenir of Northants’ etched (or possibly marked by a process equivalent to etching) into the surface.
How is His Highness? Well, I hope.
Open the envelope, said the young man, with suppressed excitement.
First I extracted a press release. This is what it said:
World Leader Salutes Blog
His Highness Sultan Qaboos of Muscat and Oman has congratulated Mr Alablague on the occasion of the first anniversary of the initiation of his blog http://www.alablague.wordpress.com. He wishes it be known that the site is bookmarked on all the royal computers in all the palaces and even some tents and that there is nothing that His Highness enjoys more than reading a new instalment of the adventures of Amy, Aubergine Small and Uncle Edgerton (and the dog but less so) in the company of a young friend or two.
His Highness has enjoyed every step of the way from mendacity to outright fantasy. He feels that it has been a “Journey” that he and Mr Alablague have, in a very real way, shared.
His Highness commends the site to all well-meaning people – except those living in Oman, where internet access is restricted for their own good.
His Highness commends the struggle of The Jibjab Woman to beat the shit out of the enemies of Islam.
In recognition of the anniversary of the initiation of the blog http://www.alablague.wordpress.com His Highness is pleased to make two orders.
Mr Alablague’s son is freely pardoned from the open charges of piracy (well, privateering) and stealing a Lee Enfield rifle plus bullets.
Mr Alablague himself is admitted to the Order of the Falcon’s Tail, Third Class, and is welcome to collect the insignia personally at any of His Highness’s palaces, any time, whatever.
Mr Alablague said, “I’m chuffed to bits. I salute the benevolent rule of His Highness Sultan Qaboos, his encouragement of the enjoyment of the light classics and his aspirations to democracy, and I shall wear my gong with pride.”
All enquiries please to the Superintendent of Police, Muscat.
Contact details followed.
There was also a card and a personal note which I need not reproduce here. The picture on the card, incidentally, was a reproduction of a painting by our friend Julian Barrow of the goat market in Nizwa.
I gave the young man a cup of tea and a piece of fudge left over from daughter three’s wedding and returned to bed. Hours later the parcel post came and again the dog woke me. I signed for a tiny parcel and opened it feverishly. Inside there was a small piece of dried pasta. It was in a rather personal shape.
There was also a card. Its front read:
A Wish for You
I hope that this stops you writing your sexist patronising patriarchal filth for at least six months.
Dame Jenni ™ Murray
“at least” was underlined twice.
It was nice of her to take the trouble. Naomi herself hadn’t.
Actually it was probably one of Naomi’s, left over.
Other people have also been very kind. You only have to look at the hundreds of touching tributes on the alablague Facebook site. It’s that sort of thing that gives you the strength to carry on.
His Highness calls it a ‘journey’, which is an idea that (much as I revere the man) I hate. Like Amy, I prefer the idea of ‘good unsought experiments by the way’.
Enough of that. When I went up for my after-lunch nap there was a message in soap on the shaving mirror:
Many happy returns! Good show!
How on earth could he tell?